OREM — It has been a year since Oklahoma transfer Akolda Manyang took the floor.
And Wednesday night at the UCCU Center in an exhbition game against Dixie State, Manyang put on a show.
Manyang recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Utah Valley used a 17-4 run to start the second half to knock off the Trailblazers 81-70. Manyang also had three blocks, a steal and an assist to go along with some highlight reel, alley-oop dunks in the second half.
"He's a special talent," UVU head coach Mark Pope said. "He's got a chance to be a really, really good player."
Guards Brandon Randolph and Conner Toolson finished with 14 points apiece while junior college transfer Ben Nakwaasah finished with 11 points in his UVU debut.
Here are some instant observations from the in-state exhibition game.
Second-half spurt is crucial
Outside of the Dixie State locker room, there probably weren't many people who thought the Trailblazers would take a 44-33 lead into halftime.
However, the buzzer-beating 3-pointer that Kyler Nielson hit to end the first half was the last bucket that Dixie State knocked down over a period of five minutes to start the second half. In fact, the Trailblazers' first basket of the second half came at the 13:08 mark when Brandon Simister hit a 3-pointer.
UVU had all the momentum as layups by Brandon Randolph, Conner Toolson and Isaac Neilson, along with a dunk by Manyang, helped the Wolverines start the half on a 14-4 run. And the Wolverines never looked back.
Pope said he told his guys in the locker room to just slow down and take a deep breath, and it showed. UVU scored 48 second-half points on its way to the victory.
Manyang will be very good
He is a 7-footer with great length and quickness. In fact, on one of his second half alley-oop dunks, Manyang outran all the guards on the floor before putting one home.
Manyang wasn't known for his scoring prowess at Oklahoma as he averaged just 2.5 points and only played 8.0 minutes per game.
But playing on a team with Buddy Hield, Manyang didn't have to score. On this UVU squad, the redshirt senior will be called on to score, rebound and protect the rim. In the WAC, where big men are a dime a dozen, Manyang has the potential to have a very special year in a UVU uniform.
Perhaps it was by design to not show all the cards in Wednesday night's win. But although UVU scored 81 points, the offense struggled to gain any rhythm throughout the majority of the night, especially in the first half.
Fouls contributed to that as Manyang, Neilson and BYU transfer Jake Toolson each had two fouls early and had to sit for the majority of the first half. However, UVU was just 4-of-15 from 3-point land and shot 48 percent from the field. UVU also finished with 13 assists on the night, which is less than what Pope expects and hopes for.
Whatever the case, UVU has to find its offensive rhythm early and perhaps a go-to guy throughout the game, especially with the difficult road trip to start the season. UVU opens at fourth-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 10 and follows that up less than 24 hours later at top-ranked Duke.
Seniors Kenneth Ogbe and Zach Nelson sat out Wednesday's contest. Ogbe is coming back from a broken collarbone while Nelson's injury was undisclosed. Pope held Ogbe out of Wednesday's game for precautionary reasons. Pope is hopeful Nelson can get healthy because they need him in the 4-spot.
Unfortunately, there is one key player that UVU lost for the season on Wednesday night. Junior guard Hayden Schenck went to the floor awkwardly late in the second half. The initial diagnosis is a torn patella tendon, effectively ending the Eden native's season.
Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias
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